A startup is developing an automated harvester that can reduce broccoli waste by reusing the parts normally left to rot in the field
Spotted: Broccoli is a healthy food containing fibre, vitamin C, vitamin K, iron, and potassium. It also boasts more protein than most other vegetables, with virtually no fat. However, around 70 per cent of the entire broccoli harvest is left in the field. This is because only the small, centre portion of each plant – the florets – is harvested for food, leaving most of the stems and leaves to rot, even though they are perfectly edible.
Startup Upp is working to change this, with a two-pronged approach. The company is developing an automated harvester that uses artificial intelligence (AI) and computer vision to harvest the centre portion and stems separately. The harvester will then deliver the fresh broccoli for sale and the stems and leaves for upcycling into new products.
These upcycled stems and leaves will be used to produce protein by-products, as the company is looking to provide an alternative plant-based protein to pea and soya. Upp argues that using broccoli as a protein source is less carbon-intensive than soy or peas because the broccoli is already being grown for other uses.
David Whitewood, CEO of Upp says: “Upp is all about making the most of the crops that we already grow (…) In a future market of bioreactor and lab-grown alt-proteins, plant-based foods with good provenance will attract a premium like organic grass-fed beef does today.”
Upp has recently secured £500,000 (around €560,000) in pre-seed funding, in a round led by Elbow Beach Capital, to develop and commercialise its technology.
Food waste is a massive issue. Luckily, there is no shortage of innovations seeking to tackle it. Some that Springwise has spotted recently include a handheld system that uses AI to check freshness levels of fruit, and a closed-loop system that converts food waste into nutrients for use in hydroponics.
Written By: Lisa Magloff